Five Marines who were reported missing after a helicopter crash in the Cuyamaca Mountains have been located and were declared dead. The identities of the Marines have not been publicly released at this time. They were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Miramar, California.
According to CBS News, Maj. Gen. Michael J. Borgchulte, commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, confirmed the deaths.
“It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness that I share the loss of five outstanding Marines from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and the ‘Flying Tigers’ while conducting a training flight last night,” Borgchulte said. “These pilots and crewmembers were serving a calling greater than self and were proud to do so. We will forever be grateful for their call to duty and selfless service. To the families of our fallen Marines, we send our deepest condolences and commit to ensuring your support and care during this incredibly difficult time.”
The Marines on board the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter were conducting a training exercise with a flight path from Creech Air Force Base, northwest of Las Vegas, to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing conducted search and rescue operations in coordination with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and multiple federal, state, and local agencies after the helicopter was reported as overdue on February 6.
Civilian authorities located the helicopter around 9:08 am PST on February 7. Search and rescue efforts were complicated by the weather in the area, which is experiencing record snow and rainfall.
In 2018, another CH-53E Super Stallion crashed just outside of El Centro, California, near the US-Mexico border while conducting landing drills. Samuel A. Schultz, Capt. Samuel D. Phillips, Gunnery Sgt. Derik R. Holley and Lance Cpl. Taylor J. Conrad, assigned to Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based in Miramar, California, were killed.